08.27.13

Learning From Young Atheists: What Turned Them Off Christianity                        by Eric Metaxas

It’s something most Christian parents worry about: You send your kids off to college and when they come back, you find they’ve lost their faith. The prospect of this happening is why many parents nudge their kids towards Christian colleges, or at least schools with a strong Christian presence on campus.

But in many ways, the damage has been done long before our children set foot on campus. That’s the message from a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly.

My friend Larry Taunton of the Fixed Point Foundation set out to find out why so many young Christians lose their faith in college. He did this by employing a method I don’t recall being used before: He asked them.

The Fixed Point Foundation asked members of the Secular Students Associations on campuses around the nation to tell them about their “journey to unbelief.” Taunton was not only surprised by the level of response but, more importantly, about the stories he and his colleagues heard.

Instead of would-be Richard Dawkinses, the typical respondent was more like Phil, a student Taunton interviewed. Phil had grown up in church; he had even been the president of his youth group. What drove Phil away wasn’t the lure of secular materialism or even Christian moral teaching. And he was specifically upset when his church changed youth pastors.

Whereas his old youth pastor “knew the Bible” and made Phil “feel smart” about his faith even when he didn’t have all the answers, the new youth pastor taught less and played more.

Phil’s loss of faith coincided with his church’s attempt to ingratiate itself to him instead of challenging him. According to Taunton, Phil’s story “was on the whole typical of the stories we would hear from students across the country.”

These kids had attended church but “the mission and message of their churches was vague,” and manifested itself in offering “superficial answers to life’s difficult questions.” The ministers they respected were those “who took the Bible seriously,” not those who sought to entertain them or be their “buddy.”

Taunton also learned that, for many kids, their journey to unbelief was an emotional, not just an intellectual one.

Taunton’s findings are counterintuitive. Much of what passes for youth ministry these days is driven by a morbid fear of boring our young charges. As a result, a lot of time is spent trying to devise ways to entertain them.

The rest of the time is spent worrying about whether the Christian message will turn kids off. But as Taunton found, young people, like the not-so-young, respect people with conviction — provided they know what they’re talking about.

Taunton talks about his experiences with the late Christopher Hitchens, who, in their debates, refrained from attacking him. When asked why, Hitchens replied, “Because you believe it.”

I don’t know what that says about Hitchens’ other Christian debate partners, but it is a potent reminder that playing down the truth claims of the Christian faith doesn’t work. People don’t believe those they don’t respect.

Here’s something that one of the students told Larry Taunton; he said, “Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change [the lives] of others. I haven’t seen too much of that.”

Folks, that’s pretty sobering. This puts the ball in our court. Are we living lives that show our children that we actually believe what we say we believe? And here’s another question — do we actually believe it? I have to say, as a parent I’m taking this very seriously. If possible, join me in reading Taunton’s excellent article.

Here is a link to the original:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/listening-to-young-atheists-lessons-for-a-stronger-christianity/276584/

08.27.13

5 Ways To View And Relate To Students   by Aaron Crumbey

http://www.morethandodgeball.com/general-ministry/5-ways-to-view-and-relate-to-students-like-jesus/

Jesus was a walking relational powerhouse. In the three years He spent in ministry everything He did pointed to the fact that it’s all about relationships.

So here are 5 things I’ve learned from Jesus concerning viewing and relating to students.

View students in light of their potential. Jesus always looked passed people’s present circumstances and looked at who they had the potential to become.  Jesus looked pass the fact that Matthew was a tax collector and saw his potential. Jesus looked passed the lifestyle of the women at the well and saw her potential. We should do the same. Who they are today doesn’t have to be who they are tomorrow.

Make time to talk. Jesus was never too busy for a conversation. I like the fact that Jesus didn’t come to earth doing ministry from a fire breathing chariot because I can’t do that. Instead, He came doing ministry through relationships one conversation at a time. I’ve gotta make time to talk to students. Allow the programs and events to be the vessel to great life changing, life healing conversations.

Focus on who they have the potential to be and not on who they use to be. Jesus never dwelled on the past. Jesus paints a great picture of this with the disciples. He was always moving people to the life they had the potential to live. Students need someone speaking into their life words that moves them toward their potential. The more they dwell on the past, the more they will live in the past. Students need to know that there is a better life then the one that they are living, and that they can have this better life.

Challenge their faith. Jesus was always challenging the disciples to do what they thought was impossible. He was building their faith in Him. Challenging students to do things they think are impossible without God, increases their faith in God. Growth comes when we are stretched in our thinking and in our view of who God is. So stretch them by challenging them in their walk with God.

Pray for them. I love how Jesus never said “I’ll be praying for you”. He just prayed right there on the spot for those in need. This is something I’ve definitely tried to model. I’ve learned that when it comes to praying, students will totally follow your lead. So don’t wait, pray with them right there. I had a student who was having surgery. I randomly ran into her and her mother and some friends two days earlier. Once she told me about the surgery I asked if I could pray for her.  She said “of course” and so I pulled everyone together to pray. It almost brought her mom to tears that we were all praying for her daughter. It also felt good to just be bold and pray. We don’t have to confine God’s power to just move in the four walls of the church. He’s everywhere. So let’s minister like He’s everywhere.

08.27.13

You Can Beat Any Temptation!    by Rick Renner

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. — 1 Corinthians 10:13

Everyone has to deal with temptations at one time or another, so you don’t need to feel embarrassed if you’re facing a particular temptation right now. But at the same time, you don’t have to succumb to temptation, because it is something you can overcome! All temptations can be beaten! You just have to make up your mind that you’re going to be the conqueror and not the conquered!

You may not have thought of it before, but the devil tries to lure you into sin by using your mind and emotions. He injects thoughts into your mind and emotions that act as stimulants to get you all stirred up in a certain area of your life. At that moment, you are consciously aware that you can let the temptation pass you by – or you can allow those thoughts to fester in your mind and take root in your emotions until they become a major stronghold in your mind to battle and conquer. By refusing to accept the thoughts in the first place, you can avoid the whole struggle!

It’s similar to a sexual temptation. You can choose to turn and look the other way, or you can dwell on that temptation until it fills your mind and imagination. If you choose to meditate on the thought that the devil is trying to put into your head, it won’t be too long until the devil is waging a full-scale battle in your mind! If you don’t put on the brakes and stop those thoughts, the devil will conquer you. That’s why it’s so important that you learn how to control your thinking. If you can keep your mind under the control of the Holy Spirit, you will make it almost impossible for the devil to defeat you in any realm of your life.

The devil is a master when it comes to mind manipulation. He knows that if he can get you to spend a little time meditating on something wrong, he can eventually entice you to do it! If the devil was persuasive enough to deceive brilliant, mighty, powerful angels, how much more easily can he deceive people who live in a far-from-perfect environment and wrestle daily with their own imperfections! The emotional makeup of human beings makes them even more susceptible to the devil’s masterful skills of lying, deception, and manipulation.

Satan watches for the right timing. He comes along at an opportune moment. He waits until you’re tired, weary, or exasperated. Perhaps you woke up in a bad mood; someone gave you a “look” you didn’t like; or you just started off your day on the wrong foot. Then suddenly he strikes you with a thought – something that takes you totally by surprise when your guard is down!

When negative thoughts begin to deluge your mind, you need to know that it is Satan setting a trap in front of you. He is trying to ensnare you so he can cripple and devastate both you and the people you love. He’s trying to get you to bite the bait so he can set the hook! But you don’t have to fall into this trap anymore! If you really want out of this type of emotional quandary, there is a way out.

First Corinthians 10:13 promises, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

The word “temptation” is the Greek word peirasmos, and it may refer to any outside source that appeals to a weakness in your flesh. That appeal pulls you like a magnet; it lures you mentally, emotionally, and sensually; it fascinates the imagination; it entices the flesh to take a closer peek. If you don’t stop this process, it will set its hook in your soul and haul you right smack dab into the middle of some kind of sin!

Because the word peirasmos (“temptation”) can describe any weakness of the flesh, this scripture could apply to any fleshly weakness you might struggle with – from being lazy or easily offended; to thinking too lowly or too highly of yourself; to having a problem with anger or sexual temptation. Whatever your flesh responds to is what this word peirasmos refers to!

But this verse promises that God will make a way for you to escape temptation – if you really want to escape it! The Greek word for “escape” is the word ekbasis. This word is a compound of the word ek, meaning out, and the word basin, meaning to walk. When they are compounded together, it means to walk out, as to walk out of a difficult place; to walk out of a trap; or to walk out of a place that isn’t good for you.

This makes me think of the time Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife when she tried to seduce him. Rather than stay there and try to negotiate in the midst of the situation, Genesis 39:12 says Joseph “…fled, and got him out.” In other words, he got out of there as quickly as he could!

Negotiating with sin usually leads to falling into it rather than conquering it, so it’s better for a person to just get up and get away from the situation as quickly as he can! This is why Paul was constantly telling the early believers to “flee” evil influences (see 1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14, 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22).

The word “flee” is the Greek word pheugo, which means to flee, to take flight, to run away, to run as fast as possible, or to escape. This means you don’t want to succumb to those temptations that are surrounding you. You just need to get up, put on your jacket, pick up your things, and get out of that place of temptation as fast as you can! Let your feet fly as you flee that situation! You’re not stuck there! You can get out! You can walk out of that place just as easily as you walked in there! Your feet work in both directions! God will make a way for you to escape those negative emotions if you really want to escape them. But you are the only one who can make the choice to jump through that escape hatch!

  • If you know you’re being tempted to angrily explode, walk out before it happens!
  • If you know you’re being tempted to get your feelings hurt, go somewhere else to avoid the offense!
  • If you know you’re being tempted to slip into a state of laziness, then get up and get busy!
  • If you know you’re being tempted to steal, get as far away as you can from the money or the coveted object!
  • If you know you’re being tempted to sexually sin, get out of that situation immediately!
  • If you know you’re being tempted to do anything wrong, it’s time for you to flee from the temptation!

Millions of Christians are held captive because they will not take the leap through that escape hatch. As a result, they have no joy, no peace, and no victory in their lives. They may be Christians, but they’re miserable because they haven’t made the choice to jump through the escape hatch God has provided for them and leave all those negative temptations and garbage behind.

If you’ll say yes to the Lord, He will show you how to walk out of this mess! You can avoid, evade, dodge, elude, shake off, get out of, and break away from every temptation! You are the only one who can choose to walk out of those killer mental attacks or negative situations. The moment you make that decision, your journey to freedom has begun!

So today the Lord is asking you: “Are you going to stay the way you are right now, or are you willing to take the proper steps to escape from this emotional temptation and demonic trap?” What is your answer? What are you going to do? God is waiting for you to decide if you will receive the freedom He is offering you or remain a hostage for the rest of your life. The choice is yours to make.

Lord, help me find the strength to say no to my flesh and to flee from temptation when it tries to wrap its long tentacles around my soul and drag me into some kind of sin. I know what it’s like when sin calls out to my flesh, beckoning it to do something that is forbidden or wrong, but I don’t want to cooperate with it anymore. I want to walk free – to flee from sin and break free of its vicious grip. Help me bring my mind under the control of the Holy Spirit so I can think rationally when Satan tries to attack me through my mind, my emotions, or my senses. I pray this in Jesus’ name!

08.27.13

A New Semester… Being Intentional   by Geoff Rich

Listed below is the challenge to you and me about being intentional on this new start.  Despite what community you live in or your life stage you find yourself, we can all engage in these areas.

First, Stay in God’s Word:  I want to encourage you to stay connected to God’s Word individually and in community.  If you are a student, you are asked and even demanded to think, reason, and explore so many things.  If you are an adult, you are expected to know answers and have it together.  Let me remind you this…God’s Word changes lives and takes us place we cannot go on our own.  Will you take a minute or two daily to explore and use your mind and heart here?  May you allow Him to influence your life through His written Word.Listen and talk to God:  Prayer truly is a gift, and my hope is that you see prayer as connecting to the God who loves you more than you or I could possible know or grasp.  Prayer is also an opportunity to truly think about and serve others.  Prayer was never meant to be a formula, empty ritual, or etiquette.

Be a mentor…Be a person of influence:  This is huge!  I will say it again, this is Huge!   I really believe God does more in your faith and life when you are serving others.  Allow God to use you to teach, encourage, influence, and inspire others.There are opportunities right now for those willing and available to give your life away through small group Bible study and coaching youth sports.  You don’t have to be a Bible scholar or proficient in the sport to be a hero in the life of someone.

Find a mentor:  In addition to being a mentor for someone, I want to strongly encourage you to find someone to speak life-giving truth into your life.  Be willing to be accountable and be vulnerable.  We are not meant to walk this journey alone.

I Cor 16: 13-14  Be on guard; stand firm in the faith; be men and women of courage; be strong. Do everything in love

Serve those in need:  In some places it is often so easy to see need around us, but it is also often easy to do nothing.  In other places, even finding those in need is often difficult.  I want to encourage you to find ways to serve others in your classes, in your home/apt/dorm, in your circle of friends, in your city.  I really believe God wants us to give our life away in service to others.  Find a place to volunteer and serve once a week or more.  Begin now the habit of living generously and loving with no agenda.  Serving is not just a job you do at summer camp or when you working for or with a church.

Matt 10:7-8 Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

Be in Authentic Community:  We really are not made to be in isolation.  It may feel really good to stand alone, but it seems God’s heart for us is to share life with each other.  I want to encourage you to find and be a part of a local church…this is not a building where you can just go once a week….but it is a community of believers that loves you and sharpens you as you worship and serve.

Acts 4:32 All the believers were one in heart and mind

Honor God with your body and health:  This is something that is very important to me, and it is something I think you can make incredible life-giving choices now that will both model for others but also set a great pattern for your life.  Whether that means playing basketball once a week, jogging a couple times weekly, or training for and participating in some form of race (5K, marathon, or triathlon) you can honor God with your body.  I also think it is a great way to interact in community.  Now, be careful, I’m not talking about worshiping your body or going overboard, but I am talking about being intentional to stay healthy and partnering together with others on this journey.

I Cor 6: 19-20  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Again, this life we lead this side of heaven truly is a journey.  Enjoy this incredible adventure…each day is a gift.

08.20.13

God’s Word the Cure   by Chuck Swindoll

Psalm 119:98-100

As I glance over Psalm 119:98-100, I see three benefits gained by those who absorb the Word: wisdom, insight, and understanding.

Wisdom is the ability to look at life and its difficulties from God’s point of view. As I learn more of the Word of God and begin to get a grasp of its practical principles, I also gain the ability to look at life from a heavenly, eternal viewpoint. I see the world through the eyes of someone who is infinitely wise, entirely good, and whose agenda includes the well-being of all people. Consequently, I begin to see my circumstances as opportunities He has designed to develop me and train me as His vessel. This removes bitterness and irritation from my life and replaces them with gratitude and enthusiasm!

Insight is the ability to see through life and its difficulties from God’s viewpoint. In other words, as I grow in the Word, I gain the ability to penetrate the surface level of irritations and problems. I am given insight to see the real causes for certain situations, much like God can see beneath the outer mask (1 Samuel 16:7). I can see, as it were, the inner workings of situations so that I might make strategic decisions rather than simply react. Make no mistake about it, teachers can communicate knowledge, but the Word alone can give you insight.

Understanding is the ability to respond to life’s situations and difficulties from the holistic, panoramic comprehension of God’s viewpoint. As I get a hold on the Word, I not only gain insight to see the inner workings of a matter, I discover how to respond to effect the best outcome. I am able to learn from my decisions, even when things don’t turn out my way. I find that my attitude is as important to God as my activity—often more so!

08.20.13

Why We Pray

http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/2007-08-30-Why-We-Pray/

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen (Romans 15:30-33).

Rather than pretend he was doing fine, Paul bares his soul and begs for help from his friends. As we look at this request from the standpoint of the 21st century, three lasting truths emerge.

I. Prayer Involves Agony.

When Paul says “strive together with me,” he uses a Greek word from which we get the English word “agony.” Join me in my agony. What a thought that is. Prayer is agony. But someone says, “I thought prayer was supposed to be fun.” Who told you that? The Bible nowhere calls prayer “fun.” Prayer isn’t fun; it’s hard work. And true prayer is agony of the soul. Prayer is wrestling with God, it is striving in the realm of the spirit, it is spiritual warfare against principalities and powers and the forces of evil all around us.

When was the last time you agonized in prayer?

When was the last time you wrestled in prayer?

When was the last time you shed tears in prayer?

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08.20.13

Better Discipleship: 5 Broken Views of Discipleship and How to Fix Them            by Ed Stetzer

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/august/better-discipleship.html

There is a lot of talk about discipleship these days—and it is about time. Jesus seemed to think discipleship was a big deal, putting it as the heart—and the verb—of the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations.” Yet, it seems discipleship has fallen on hard times in many churches in the West—for example, English-speaking places like the U.S., Canada, Australia, and England where there are Christians who are just not as desperate and committed as their sisters and brothers in the Two-Thirds World.

I would go so far as to say that our discipleship model is broken. I would like to suggest some areas where we are broken and hopefully provide some solutions about how to fix them.

1. We equate discipleship with religious knowledge.

While I don’t think one can appropriately grow without seeking more biblical knowledge, many times believers reduce the discipleship process to, “Read this. Study this. Memorize this. Good to go.” This is unfortunate.

Instead, discipleship is to be more like Jesus. Christ-like transformation is the goal, as we are “to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29). The point is not information, but Christ-like transformation. And, that means it is not about knowledge in general, but about knowing Jesus better. Trying to be like Jesus, without the power of Jesus, dishonors Jesus.

2. We try to program discipleship.

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08.20.13

Dark Undercurrents of Teenage Girls’ Selfies   by Olympia Nelson

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/dark-undercurrents-of-teenage-girls-selfies-20130710-2pqbl.html

If social media only caused narcissism, it wouldn’t be the worst thing. Instagram and Facebook are social networks that not only breed narcissistic tendencies but transform relations into a sexual rat race.

On these ubiquitous portals, the popularity of girls is hotly contested over one big deal: how sexy can I appear and bring it off with everyone’s admiration?

That’s the reason we see mirror shots, pouting self-portraits of teenagers (typically female) and sexually suggestively posed girls in a mini-dress ”before a party last night”. They’re showing how much they like themselves and hoping that you’ll hit ”like” to reinforce the claim.

This isn’t just an interest in vanity but vainglory, being high up on a scale of ”likes” . There isn’t anything inherently wrong with uploading self-portraits.

Everyone likes receiving compliments and it makes us feel awesome that our own appearance can provide us with an ego boost. But what kind of photos produce an epidemic of ”likes?”

Why are we girls competing to be the Queen of Pouts? Why do we scour through photos of celebrities and all our ambitious friends to find out who is the new princess of prurient poses? Even demure girls are tempted to strike sexually suggestive poses. But they must be careful, not because parents are looking but because they might not score any ”likes” and might then feel a failure, unworthy among their peers.

How confident can you appear at being lascivious? How credible is your air of lewdness? A girl who is just a try-hard will lose credibility and become an outcast. So a lot depends on how much support you can get from other girls.

Girls zealously scroll down their Instagram or Facebook feeds. In Instagram, they might cleverly hashtag the most popular tags, such as #me, #selfie, #instacute to get an influx of ”likes” while they are on the most-recently tagged photos, then delete all the tags as though nothing’s happened.

They’re manipulating their image into popularity. Girls spray their ”likes”. They comment: ”Wow, you’re a model”; ”You’re perfect”; ”Best body”. Occasionally it’s genuine and supportive but it can also be very calculating. Girls fake flattery to get higher on the food chain. In my mind a comment such as, ”Oh my gosh, you’re so beautiful!” really means: she has to ”like” and comment on my photo! Then behind her back…

It’s tense because it’s duplicitous. We’re faking it, so that we get to be among the most popular, get to be ”liked” by the most popular and thereby gain popularity.

Seeing some of these images can feel too intimate. It’s almost as though we’re peering through a window. Some photos may be of girls showing skin, or girls lying on a bed. Just about all are seeking some sort of approval from their friends. The aim is not to communicate joy but to score a position.

It’s a neurotic impulse, not a happy one. I’m anxious that girls are higher up on the ladder than I am: boys are looking at her, not me. I have to look like her to be worthy of boys’ attention. Boys’ tastes are not always sophisticated. The aesthetic yardstick is what they see in pornography. So girls have to conform to what boys see in pornography. And then girls post photos to ”out-hot” the other girls by porn star criteria.

Who do we blame for this moral mess? As feminists, we correctly blame patriarchy because boys are securely at the top of the status game. Boys end up with the authority. They have their cake and eat it.

From the moral high ground, they can trash a girl for visual promiscuity, yet enjoy the spectacle at the same time, both with the same misogynistic motives: I like your form but I’m able to scorn you. You’re what I want but you’re less than me. Girls try to conform to this ”ideal” stereotype in their photos and these boys sarcastically comment, ”Nice personality” – really implying that the cleavage is their only attribute. Yet they also click the ”like” button. The boy who mocks a girl showing her cleavage is in fact the same boy who craves sexual opportunities with her.

A common adult reaction to social media is to restrict things, as if that could ever be possible. You can’t force kids to be nice. The real problem isn’t something tangible like sexting or bullying, which adults focus on in patronizing and unimaginative ways. The real problem relates to conformity. Kids are compelled to act the stereotype, because those who opt out commit themselves to social leprosy. Social media doesn’t need adult control. What we need is some good taste.

 

08.13.13

Can We Teach our Teens To Fail   by Leneita Fix

http://www.morethandodgeball.com/unchurched/can-we-teach-our-teens-to-fail/#sthash.QdYiMoJo.dpuf

This past week I led an activity with my teen small group. I asked them to write down at least 5 things they don’t like about yourself.   Next to that I asked them to write down 5 ways they keep messing up, and wish they could stop.  We then opened our Bibles talked about our sin, our need for a Savior, and His plan for us. Finally, I asked them to write the word GRACE over everything on their page.

Here was mine as an example:

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08.13.13

Training Teens to be Leaders   by Mark Gregston

What is a Leader?

You don’t have to have an impressive title or an official position to be a leader.  Instead, leaders are those who have learned to govern themselves.  They’re not mindless followers.  Leaders are secure in what they know is right and will walk in that truth regardless of whether others come along.  Leaders can be fun, but they also gain respect.  Those around them understand that this is someone they can trust and perhaps look up too.  That’s the type of person we want our sons and daughters to become.  Studies show that kids who exhibit leadership qualities are less likely to participate in substance abuse, pre-marital sex, school delinquency, and self-harm.  Training your teen to become a leader not only builds character, but it protects your child from the destructive forces that can veer them off course.

So how does a mom or dad start cultivating a leader in their home?

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